All posts by Aarti Sethi

I am an M.Phil student at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, New Delhi. This blog is meant to be a space for conversation with friends on my ongoing work on cinema and the city. And since all of you know me there not much else to say ;)

10,000 Academics, Students, Teachers and Civil Society Against Police Brutality at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University

We, the undersigned, condemn in the strongest possible terms the police brutality in Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, and the ongoing illegal siege and curfew imposed on Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. On 15th December 2019 Delhi police in riot-gear illegally entered the Jamia Millia campus and attacked students who are peacefully protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act. The Act bars Muslims from India’s neighboring countries from the acquisition of Indian citizenship. It contravenes the right to equality and secular citizenship enshrined in the Indian constitution.

On the 15th at JMIU, police fired tear gas shells, entered hostels and attacked students studying in the library and praying in the mosque. Over 200 students have been severely injured, many who are in critical condition. Because of the blanket curfew and internet blockage imposed at AMU, we fear a similar situation of violence is unfolding, without any recourse to the press or public. The peaceful demonstration and gathering of citizens does not constitute criminal conduct. The police action in the Jamia Millia Islamia and AMU campuses is blatantly illegal under the constitution of India.

We stand in unconditional solidarity with the students, faculty and staff of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University, and express our horror at this violent police and state action. With them, we affirm the right of citizens to peaceful protest and the autonomy of the university as a non-militarized space for freedom of thought and expression. The brutalization of students and the attack on universities is against the fundamental norms of a democratic society.

As teachers, students, scholars and members of civil society across the world, we are watching with extreme concern the situation unfolding at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. We refuse to remain silent at the violence unleashed on our colleagues (students, staff, and faculty) peacefully protesting the imposition of a discriminatory and unjust law.

This statement with a full list of signatories is available here and here Jamia Millia and AMU solidarity statement.

Thinking a local Cosmopolitanism – the Kochi Muziris Biennale: Interview with Dilip Menon by Riyas Komu and CS Venkiteswaran

English transcript of  interview published in Malayalam in Mathrubhumi Weekly, October 17 2017.

CSV

Kochi is a curious choice as a site for an international art event like Biennale, isn’t it? It has played no prominent role insofar as art activity, practice or market is concerned, nor is it a metropolitan city like Mumbai or Delhi. One qualification, of course, could be its long cosmopolitan history of trade and the movement of people, ideas, religions or goods from time immemorial. Is KMB in a way, trying to invoke and re-imagine the cosmopolitan past or heritage of a place like Kochi?

Dilip Menon

I think there is a particular history to why such an event should happen in Kochi, and why it could be successful here alone. Kochi, being a port city, was always part of a universe that was much larger than the immediate geography within which it is located. So, like most port cities, it sits on the edge of land and looks out to the sea. When one thinks about the idea of cosmopolitanism, there is something about the already existing cosmopolitanism of port cities, whether it is Malacca, Kochi or Venice. It is not without significance that two of the more important biennales are in Venice and Kochi. I think that a port city is located in a much longer history of movements of people, ideas, materials and political ideologies across the ocean.  Even though these ports are now part of nation-states, their histories and memories are much deeper and much longer. The Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB) is able to summon up these memories.

Continue reading Thinking a local Cosmopolitanism – the Kochi Muziris Biennale: Interview with Dilip Menon by Riyas Komu and CS Venkiteswaran

Why Two Hundred Ordinary Hindus Did Not See A Dead Muslim Child On A Railway Station In North India

On 22 June 2017 fifteen-year old Hafiz Junaid was stabbed to death on a Mathura-bound train from New Delhi. He was traveling home for Eid with his brothers and two friends. A dispute over seats resulted in a group of men repeatedly assaulting and stabbing Junaid and his companions. The assailants flung their bodies onto the Asoti railway platform. A crowd gathered. At some point an ambulance was called and two bodies were taken away. Junaid is dead. His companions are in critical condition. While one person has been arrested the police investigations are running into a wall of social opacity since they have been unable to find a single eye-witness to the incident. Of the 200 hundred strong crowd that assembled on Asoti railway platform on Thursday evening, the police cannot find one person who can say what they saw. The police cannot find a witness because something very peculiar seems to have happened to those present at Junaid’s death. A report by Kaunain Sherrif M in the Indian Express provides specific details. When asked if he had seen anything that evening, Ram Sharan a corn-vendor whose daily shift coincides with the killing, Sharan said he was not present at the time of the incident. Two staffers who were sent to investigate by the station master were unavailable for comment. Neither the station-master, the post-master or the railway guards saw the event they were present at.

In this startling piece the journalist reports how the public lynching of a Muslim child becomes a social non-event in contemporary India. He shows the reconfiguring, and splitting, of a social field of vision. He reports all the ways in which people – Hindus- did not see the body of a dead – Muslim – child that lay in front of them. The Hindus on the Asoti railway platform managed to collectively not see a 15 year old Muslim boy being stabbed to death. Then they collectively, and without prior agreement, continued to not see what they had seen after the event. This is the uniquely terrifying aspect of this incident on which this report reflects: the totalising force of an unspoken, but collectively binding, agreement between Hindus to not see the dead body of a Muslim child. Hindus on this railway platform in a small station in north India instantly produced a stranger sociality, a common social bond between people who do not otherwise know each other. By mutual recognition between strangers, Hindus at this platform agreed to abide by a code of silence by which the death of a Muslim child can not be seen by 200 people in full public view on a railway platform in today’s India. Continue reading Why Two Hundred Ordinary Hindus Did Not See A Dead Muslim Child On A Railway Station In North India

On Barak Valley Bandh on 16th December, 2016 – Some Nascent Observations: Arunima Chakraborty

This is a Guest Post by ARUNIMA CHAKRABORTY

Let’s begin with the usual: by ruing over Indian mainstream media’s overlooking of what could have been treated as more newsworthy. Today, that is, 16th of December, 2016 witnessed a bandh in southern Assam’s Barak valley protesting against the statement by the union minister of state for railways, Rajen Gohain that ‘Bengali…should be withdrawn from Barak valley as official language’ since ‘there cannot be two official languages’.[1] And a simple, layman-like google-news search reveals that there are just three entries on the issue/event.

This piece is aimed not at joining the state Congress and the local SUCI(Socialist Unity Centre of India) cadres who are decrying comment by Gohain, the union minister and a senior BJP leader in Assam but rather at attempting a delineation of the ominous portents which it seems to have unleashed. And of course, to trace the genealogy of the statement.

First of all, a rather facile fact: Mr. Gohain’s observation that there cannot be two official languages clashes with article 345 of the Indian constitution which allows for the adoption of one or more official languages by any state of the Indian union. Article 347 also allows for respecting the desire of a significant section of a populace of a state for the usage of a language of their choice.[2] A couple of months ago, while visiting Assam, I watched, or rather listened, on an Assamese news channel, a shrill voice issuing a caveat to its viewers, “…barak upatyakat asomiya bhasha nokoya hoiche”. ‘Assamese is no longer spoken in the Barak valley’. Anybody remotely familiar with the history of the region could have retorted back with the question, when was Assamese ever spoken in the region?

Continue reading On Barak Valley Bandh on 16th December, 2016 – Some Nascent Observations: Arunima Chakraborty

On Indian Exceptionalism and Kashmir: Dia Da Costa

This is a guest post by Dia Da Costa

‘If Trump is elected, I will move to Canada,’ many Americans noted in passing, in jest, and then in all seriousness once the results were out.

If it has taken this election result to make people recognize the pervasive racism in the US, that is because of the success of US exceptionalism and its ability to deflect attention from its ongoing colonization of indigenous land, relentless imperialism, Islamophobia, and ongoing brutalities against black people in the aftermath of abolition and the civil rights movement. If it has taken this election result to make people really want to move to Canada, that too is because of the success of Canadian multicultural exceptionalism. Apparently, Canadian exceptionalism is still able to pass as not-as-racist by deflecting attention from its ongoing colonization of indigenous land, relentless participation in imperialism cloaked all too often as humanitarian development, growing Islamophobia, and its self-congratulatory representation of itself as having no history of slavery even as its anti-Black violence pervades cities and small towns alike.

For those of us who can recognize these forms of exceptionalism, I want to ask if we acknowledge Indian exceptionalism, and its specific relation to Kashmir? ‘If Trump is elected, I will move back to India’, I saw many Indians say on social media. If it has taken this US election result to make Indians really want to move back to India, that is not just because of the apparent success of US exceptionalism among Indians, who could see racism but could ultimately deal with, and even love life in the US. It is also because of Indian exceptionalism. To be sure, Indian exceptionalism is nurtured by the caste and class privilege that allows some Indians to declare that they will simply up and leave when the going gets tough (whether it is in India or in the US), or joke about the same.

But there is more to it. Indian exceptionalism is a state projected discourse turned commonsense perception of India as a complicated and diverse nation that is ultimately unified against all odds by the absolute commitment of its people to democracy. Whether we believe it at face value or we critique the many excesses of the Indian state, ultimately something draws us to this idea of India as the world’s largest democracy. Continue reading On Indian Exceptionalism and Kashmir: Dia Da Costa

Kashmir’s Freedom is India’s Freedom: Hum Kya Chahte? Azadi

I do not think ordinary Indians support the brutality of army occupation in Kashmir. Despite what the Indian state says, and despite what the Indian army and CRPF are doing, I honestly do not believe that any ordinary Indian supports the torture of young men, the blinding of people attending a funeral, the rape of women, the killings and maiming and abuse and humiliation that are now a routinized fact of daily life in the Kashmir valley. To believe that ordinary Indians enjoy watching this spectacle of violence, that ordinary Indians take pleasure in the torture of children, would be to think India is now a country comprised of sadistic psychopaths. I honestly do not think ordinary Indians are psychopaths. I do think, however, that ordinary Indians, and I count myself amongst them, have somehow managed, till now, to keep some distance between what is happening in Kashmir and the idea of India as a whole. After all, India is a large and complex country, a huge and diverse society. Everything that happens in Kashmir, the brutality of the army and the security forces, cannot signify the whole truth of India we tell ourselves. It seems somehow unfair to us ordinary Indians that what happens in Kashmir reflects on us all.

But the time has come now to squarely face some hard truths about ourselves, and the dissimulations, psychological and social, by which we continue to live in this country and call ourselves ‘Indians’. Continue reading Kashmir’s Freedom is India’s Freedom: Hum Kya Chahte? Azadi

Reflections on Dissent -How Is Hannah Arendt Relevant for Contemporary Israel and India? Ira Chadha-Sridhar

This is a guest post by IRA CHADHA-SRIDHAR

In 2016, the age-old conflict between Israel and Palestine has become tougher and more violent at the ground level. The year has come with several disturbing developments in the region- the intensification of the Gaza blockade, the subsequent statement by the Hamas threatening to implement an explosion unless the blockade is lifted and Israel’s rejection of the French peace treaty for the region. Jean-Marc Ayrault, French Foreign Affairs Minister said, in April 2016 that, “The two sides are further apart than ever.” In other news, Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, has been criticized for his statements claiming Hitler himself was a Zionist before “he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”. The merits of Livingstone’s statements and the fallacious reasoning he employs has been rightly criticized by several international commentators. However, he has unknowingly raised larger, more important questions by his statements about how to criticize the Israeli state without being branded as “anti-Semitic” within international discourse- a problem that several commentators critical of the Israeli regime have faced. How can the international community legitimately advance its criticism of the Israeli state? Although critics of Israel are usually non-Jews, there has been a vibrant critique of the oppressive Israeli regime from the Jewish diaspora itself. For historical instruction, in this article, I draw upon the work of one of the earliest and most controversial voices of critique from the Israeli diaspora- the brutally honest voice of 20th century political philosopher, Hannah Arendt. Her book of unparalleled political influence, ‘Eichmann in Jersulelam: A Report on the Banality of Evil’, created what scholars often refer to as a “war” amongst intellectuals across the world that brought to question the validity of her theories and their political and global ramifications. (Elon 2006) Amongst the Jews, and, in particular, in Israel, Arendt’s work was met with anger and severe political backlash. She was labelled “Anti-Jew”, “Nazi” and a “Jew-hater”- labels that were intended to act as violent threats against her distinct, free intellectual voice. (Elon 2006). Continue reading Reflections on Dissent -How Is Hannah Arendt Relevant for Contemporary Israel and India? Ira Chadha-Sridhar

The Paths of Piety: Nandagopal R. Menon

This is a guest post by Nandagopal R. Menon

The recent disappearance of 21 Muslims (men and women) from Kerala – allegedly to join the IS – has created considerable panic in the state. Media and public discourses are rife with speculative reports about their whereabouts, their motives (or pathologies rather), the Islamic networks and scholars with whom they were associated and so on. In this note I want to think about one aspect of this discourse about the disappeared. What is striking is how a specific form of Islamic piety (Salafism) is sought to be, advertently or inadvertently, linked to the IS’ violent extremism. That is, though they are not exactly the same, practicing a certain kind of Salafism could or will lead to embracing the ideology of the IS. To be fair, there is no overt claim made on these lines, but the inordinate focus on Salafism and its practices in the context of IS-related panic creates the impression that there is some kind of organic, straightforward connection between Salafism and IS. Now whatever the precise definition of Salafism given by scholars, what concerns me here is the alleged nature of its “problematic” variant that is at the centre of the controversy in Kerala. This interpretation, sometimes termed “extreme” or “ascetic” Salafism to distinguish it from its “moderate” versions represented by some of Kerala’s major Muslim organisations, apparently stresses a “puritanical” piety that demands a literal interpretation of the Islamic tradition (primarily the Qur’an and hadith, or traditions of what the Prophet said, did or approved). For instance, since there are hadith which say that the Prophet kept goats, Muslims who strive to be pious should also take up herding goats. Similarly, this piety requires one to separate oneself from all kinds of “un-Islamic” ways of life – avoid using products brought with money involving paying or receiving interest, shunning various forms of arts like music and cinema, rejecting certain sartorial styles (trousers that fall below the ankles for men or dress that do not cover the face for women) etc. This form of “puritanical” Salafism thus marks out its practitioners as separate, distinct and even encourages one to (literally) seclude oneself from not only the rest of the society, but also from other Muslims (even family members) who do not adhere to this form of piety. Some “ascetic” Salafis are said to have travelled to Sri Lanka and Yemen, or carved out a separate space in Kerala itself, in their search for the perfect and complete Islamic way of life. Continue reading The Paths of Piety: Nandagopal R. Menon

The Outsiders: Jagjit Pal Singh

This is a guest post by JAGJIT PAL SINGH

It was the year 2013; I took an auto-rickshaw from Dal Gate to Shankaracharya temple. As the auto-rickshaw took a right from the Boulevard towards the road that goes to the temple it was halted by a long queue of vehicles, mostly cars. I could see a security-check post from the distance, men in uniform grilling the drivers and their automobiles with the same thirst. You have to clear it before you pay visit to the deity. In Kashmir, these security-checks posts are just like traffic signals we habitually obey and cross in Delhi or in any other city, every day, every few kilometres. As I got off from the auto to take some fresh air a faujee approached me. He inquired from where I was coming, a very friendly tone in his voice. I was not new to these security-checks. I am half-Kashmiri, half-Punjabi, half-Sikh, half-Indian, half-Pakistani, half- refugee, and many others halves I could never put together to give a name to. He was visibly happy to see an ‘Indian’ in the land of ‘terrorists’, probably mistaken by my Punjabi/Sikh appearance. I’m more Kashmiri than a Punjabi though. If it were 1980’s or 1990’s the approach would have been different. Punjabis, mostly Sikhs, were terrorists those days. There are few other adjectives he used for Kashmiris I would like to skip. I instantly gathered all my Indian-ness and replied in an equally friendly-Indian tone to his friendly-Indian questions. It was a casual chat. Then, he went to the auto-driver in his role as a uniformed Indian in a ‘conflict-zone’; spoke to him in a dialect ‘only Kashmiris understand’, gave a green signal and in few minutes our middle-class auto-rickshaw bypassed all the expensive cars with JK number at the rear. Continue reading The Outsiders: Jagjit Pal Singh

What Made Burhan a Hero?: Muzaffar Ali

This is a guest post by MUZAFFAR ALI

Around two lakh people participated in the funeral procession of Burhan Wani: the slain Hizb militant from Shareifabad, Tral. Without a break Kashmiris are offering prayers in absentia and paying tributes to the `martyr.` Community kitchens in his locality have been set up to feed people who come to pay tributes. Defying curfew, people are crossing hills and hamlets on foot to reach his native place. Graffities in the Lalchowk area of Srinagar hail him as a hero who lives in “our hearts.” Never before has anyone witnessed such a tremendous support or tribute base for a slain militant. Militants have died before as well, but his death has given life to something unprecedented. Banners in his honour have been installed across the valley to convey the message that he will be remembered. The valley is on boil, and people are risking lives to attack armed police officers and CRPF personals. The death toll according to reports in Rising Kashmir has reached 43 and thousands of people are injured, many of them critically. While the state and the propagandistic TRP driven media emphasize Burhan being a ‘terrorist’, Kashmiris hail him as their ‘hero’ and ‘saviour.’ The question is what turned Burhan into a hero and why are Kashmiris across age groups eulogizing him? What is inspiring people to raise a slogan like, “mubarak tas maajeh yes ye zaav: shaheed hai aav, shaheed hai aaav” (congratulations to the mother who gave birth to Burhan—the Martyr). Continue reading What Made Burhan a Hero?: Muzaffar Ali

Statement by SC/ST Faculty Forum and Concerned Teachers of the University of Hyderabad on the Attack on Velivada

In the early hours 28th May 2016, at around 2 P.M., the authorities at the University of Hyderabad removed the tents erected in North Shopcom around the Velivada and the venue of protest following the death of Rohith Vemula. This happened in the darkness of night, shrouded in secrecy and utterly insensitive towards the turmoil it was bound generate within the student community. Such an act reaffirms the dictatorial stance of the present administration as well as its intolerance to dissent.

The removal of the tent is a clear act of provocation against students since it is well known that they are emotionally attached to the Velivada and consider it as a place of mourning and memorial for Rohith. Especially for the Dalit students, it remains the site of challenge against caste discrimination. Further, bringing down the posters of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar’s quotes that surrounded the tent is a grave insult to the Father of the Constitution of this country and an atrocity in itself. It is indeed ironic that the university administration that overtly pronounces its intent to celebrate Dr. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary for a year has no qualms about removing his posters, or barring his grandson, Prakash Ambedkar, from entering the university. Such actions unmask the true character of the administration; revealing its deeply discriminatory, apathetic and disrespectful attitude towards Dalits and their leaders. Continue reading Statement by SC/ST Faculty Forum and Concerned Teachers of the University of Hyderabad on the Attack on Velivada

On the Need for Obscene and Offensive Humour: Rohit Revi

This is a guest post by ROHIT REVI

Tanmay Bhat, popular Stand Up Comic, recently released a video on the popular social networking platform SnapChat, imitating Sachin Tendulkar, the popular cricketer, and Lata Mangeshkar, the popular Musician. He called it ‘Sachin vs Lata Civil War’, where the two figures argue over who the better cricketer is, Tendulkar or Kohli. It was almost immediately picked by right-winged political groups, such as the BJP and the MNS, and over the course of the day, the few seconds long video became about ‘Tanmay vs Indian Culture’, ‘Comedians vs The Nation’ and so on. Mumbai Police consulted legal experts, in the meanwhile asking YouTube and Facebook to take the video down. The mainstream media, held hour long debates in relation to the video, and those who tuned in heard about ‘drawing lines’ and ‘crossing boundaries’, amidst drowning shrieks on, again, what ‘our’ culture is and what it is not. As customary, MNS Leader Ameya Kopkar, issued a quick threat to assault him, if he ever appeared in public. Sunil Pal, the comedian, called the young brand of comedians of which Tanmay is a part, a group “filled with lesbians and gays”. An effigy was burnt.

This article is not about whether the video was funny or not. It is about a certain brand of offensive humour and the need for it. Continue reading On the Need for Obscene and Offensive Humour: Rohit Revi

Response to Shantanu Guha Ray’s Mumbai Mirror Article on Tarun Tejpal: Anonymous

Guest post by ANONYMOUS

[The letter below was sent to the Mumbai Mirror by the woman journalist who has accused Tarun Tejpal of rape. The paper is yet to issue a clarification on Mr Guha Ray’s connection to the rape accused Mr Tejpal, or to carry this letter on its website, or paper. As per Indian Law the identity of a victim of sexual assault is protected. We are thus carrying the letter below without disclosing her identity]

To

The Editor

Mumbai Mirror

This is to draw your attention to the article printed in your newspaper titled “Rape Charges Against Tarun Tejpal: Over Two Years On, Trial Yet to Begin” dated March 21, 2016 by Shantanu Guha Ray.

Having long admired the Mumbai Mirror, I was disappointed to note the factual inconsistencies and biases evident in the article. To begin with, Mr Guha Ray, allegedly a senior journalist (and therefore, one hopes, familiar with at least a few journalistic tenets) fails to mention in his piece that he worked under the rape accused, Tarun Tejpal, for several years at Tehelka magazine, and was also the head of Tehelka’s sister venture, Financial World – indicating that he had significant financial interest the magazine.

Further, Mr Guha Ray mentions that the complainant in the case is “working on a book on the complicated matter of sexual harassment at the workplace” to be published by Harper Collins. As the complainant, I would like to clarify that I am not working on a book about office harassment, have never been contacted by Harper Collins, and that the only thing complicated about sexual harassment at the workplace is the management bending over backwards to protect abusive employers responsible for their pay cheques.

If any further evidence of Mr Guha’s bias and professional ineptitude was necessary, let me also point out that while he liberally quotes the rape accused as saying the case is “a matter of life and death for him”, he fails to even get the state prosecutor’s name right, and has never contacted me for an account of how the delay in an allegedly “fast track” and high profile rape case has affected my health or professional prospects.

A basic fact check, or a few phone calls to lawyers and editors in New Delhi would have alerted the journalist in question, as well as you to the fact that Mr Tejpal and his family have repeatedly screened sub-judice CCTV footage for anyone that asks to view it. In fact, no one except the police and Mr Tejpal’s defence even have access to this footage, so perhaps Mr Guha Ray can next train his newshound instincts to finding out how story after story defending Mr Tejpal based on this footage appeared in publications like Outlook, The Citizen and the Facebook page of Mr Anurag Kashyap.

Finally, Mr Guha would do well to remember that not only does this delay in proceedings give “some reprieve” to Mr Tejpal, but combined with his slanderous media campaign, it also affects every single witness in the case, and constantly delays the moment I can present my truth and evidence in court — a moment I have patiently waited for for over two years.

Warm regards,

XYZ

Academics for Democracy: Statement in Solidarity with Students of Hyderabad Central University

The brutal police assault on students of the University of Hyderabad (UoH), which has clearly taken place with the blessings of University authorities, is an unprecedented attack on the student community in India. Starting with last years de-recognition of the APSC in IIT-Madras, to the events at FTII Pune, on to the suspension of students at the University of Madras for protesting against TASMAC, to the suspension of 5 Dalit research scholars belonging to UoH, to the arrests of students at JNU on charges of sedition, to this assault and arrest of students at UoH, clearly demonstrates the increasing intensity with which liberal and democratic spaces inside campuses are shrinking, due chiefly to Hindutva forces.

The students in question were peacefully protesting against the return of Vice Chancellor Appa Rao Podile who, according to the student community at UoH, was one of the key persons responsible for Rohith Vemula’s suicide, an event that since then been termed by some as an ‘institutional killing’. During this period, no action was taken against any University officials for Rohith’s death. The manner in which students and members of the faculty were assaulted — with female students being groped by male police personnel as well! — all the while facing accusations of being an “anti-national”, is probably a new low for the Hyderabad police force.

Recent events have made clear that dissent of any sort on campuses, especially the sort that questions structures of power and the Hindutva ideology, will be suppressed in the most brutal manner possible. We find it especially shocking that sections of the media have chosen to compromise on foundational principles of journalistic ethics and, as they did in the JNU case, have resorted to reporting unverified facts like “the protesters vandalized the Vice Chancellor’s office”. These unverified reports are intended, we assume, to some how justify the violent police action.

In addition to the assault on members of UoH, the attempt to turn the campus into a prison yard by blocking water and food supplies as well as the alleged blocking of debit cards is a worrisome development. It should serve as a warning to all students and members of faculty across the country: if they are to fight to preserve liberal democratic spaces on campuses, these are the challenges they will face.

Academics For Democracy condemns this whole episode in strongest possible terms and demands further that:

  1. All arrested protesters be released,
  2. Action is taken against the police personnel who assaulted the protesters in the campus as well as in police vans, and
  3. Appa Rao Podile be removed from his post as Vice Chancellor.

List of Signatories

V.S. Sunder, Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSC), Faculty

Arnab Priya Saha, IMSc, PhD student

Suratno Basu, Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI), PhD student

Nirmalya Kajuri, IIT Chennai, Postdoctoral fellow

Continue reading Academics for Democracy: Statement in Solidarity with Students of Hyderabad Central University

Statement in Solidarity with the ongoing movement at University of Hyderabad

  1. We, the undersigned, unequivocally condemn police action in and around University of Hyderabad, from the 22 of March onwards. We criticize extreme police brutality, lathi charge, threats of rape and verbal abuse done to the students and faculty members of UoH.
  2. We demand to know the whereabouts of the faculty members and students who were made to disappear on the 22nd March. We condemn the false charges under which they are rumoured to have been booked. We condemn the police attack on students preparing food, the detaining of students for ‘cooking in a public space’ and the insinuation that they had to be taught a lesson because they might have been cooking beef!
  3. We condemn the UoH administration’s cutting off of water, electricity, internet and food to the campus residents. Nothing, no trumped up charge merits this kind of denial of basic necessities, and this action taken by the administration and aided by the police is CASTEISM, whereby the authorities feel justified to ‘teaching’ dissenting voices a lesson, in the manner of feudal upper caste landlords.
  4. We demand a response from the Telangana state government, which has supplied police to meet the nefarious demands of tainted and on-leave VC Appa Rao. A government which was formed on the demands of equality of the disadvantaged sections of society must hang its head in shame due to its complicity with the casteist UoH admin.
  5. VC Appa Rao Podile assumed office on the 22nd of March even though he has been booked under the SC ST Atrocities Act. Instead of arresting him, the police aided him in postponing the Academic Council meeting and shutting down university amenities. Appa Rao must go! The judicial probe and the MHRD probe against him be concluded impartially and at the earliest, and those responsible for Rohith Vemula’s institutional murder punished.
  6. We also condemn the national media’s silence over this state of emergency imposed on UoH, demand that the UoH community’s voice be heard and adequately represented, as the gravity of the situation merits. This media blackout reeks of casteism and complicity with Hindtutva forces, and must be resisted by all means.
  7. Casteism is the most deeply entrenched reality of modern India. Our public spaces, universities, and academia are as much a part of it, as our institutions of marriage, dining and religion. We urge the academic community in India and abroad to support UoH in its fight against casteism and fascism in the same manner in which it has supported elite institutions in the past.

Jai Bhim!

Continue reading Statement in Solidarity with the ongoing movement at University of Hyderabad

Patented Patriotism: Kalyani Menon-Sen

Guest post by KALYANI MENON-SEN

The last few months have seen an unusual public engagement around questions of secularism, freedom of speech, sedition and the like, with furious debates everywhere from our campuses, streets and TV studios to the floor of Parliament. The budget session has been enlivened by scenes of high drama, with the leading lights of the Treasury benches bringing colour, sound and fury to their tutorials on patriotism and nationalism.

While these high-decibel histrionics have been appreciated and applauded by many, some unpatriotic elements are asking if they are designed to divert public attention away from behind-the-scenes negotiations and surreptitious deal-making that could undermine the rights and compromise the survival of millions of Indian citizens.

One such deal is now out in the open. In written submissions to the US Trade Representative, two US industry bodies (the US Chamber of Commerce and the US-India Business Council) have said that the Government of India has “privately reassured” them that it will not use the mechanism of compulsory licensing to allow commercial production of cheaper generic versions of patented medicines in India.[1]

The note of gleeful triumph in this announcement is unmistakable. Ever since the present government came to power, US trade bodies and pharma industry bodies have stepped up their attack on India’s patent system and demanded the dismantling of safeguards that protect citizens’ rights from being sacrificed to commercial concerns. The provision for compulsory licensing, empowering the government to override patents and allow the marketing of generic medicines in the public interest, is a prime target for this attack. Also in the firing line are measures to prevent patent holders from dragging out their monopoly by “evergreening” (making changes that do not enhace the therapeutic value of a product and patenting it anew), and allowing third parties (such as consumer groups or generic manufacturers) to challenge and oppose patent applications before they are finally granted. Continue reading Patented Patriotism: Kalyani Menon-Sen

Conversations on Sedition: Ritanjan Das and Abhijit Sengupta

The weeks following the February 9th incident within the JNU campus have been nothing but eventful in India’s social and political discourse. At least, this is something most of us will agree on, no matter which side of this increasingly impermeable “fence” we sit on.  There have been arguments, counter arguments thrown from each side to the other, names have been dug up and hurled across, evidence in favour of what purportedly happened or did not happen have been put up by each side for the other to see. Videos have been made, unmade; cartoons have been drawn, redrawn; political figures have been idolised, lampooned; students have been demonized and idolized; dangers of the increasing menace of nationalism and anti-nationalism have been stuffed down one’s throat through the so called idiot box or the smart net.

In the midst of this deluge of opinions and ideas, information and misinformation, the question that some have raised is, are both sides losing the plot a bit? What exactly are we discussing or debating so vociferously? Are we really listening to the other sides’ arguments, or are we just hearing a few words we want to hear and voicing our own opinions in pre-designed responses? These are some of issues we are highlighting in this piece, hopefully in a slightly different format than what we are used to elsewhere.

What follows is a conversation between two intelligent people from opposite sides of the fence. The conversation is based on some real ones, which the authors of this piece had actually engaged in with different individuals over the last few weeks. We have attempted to distil the central ideas of both sides and present it to the readers. We cannot and have not included every aspect of the ideas and opinions of both sides, and we will not include the abuse. But what we have attempted to capture, is a reasoned and rational attempt at understanding the real problem(s), as understood by each side. Continue reading Conversations on Sedition: Ritanjan Das and Abhijit Sengupta

Sedition is a Shade of Grey or, Bharat Mata’s Smothering Embrace: Ankur Tamuliphukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa

The dominant narrative around the recent JNU incident has been that the unwarranted police action and the concerted acts of violence, incitement and misinformation that followed are all part of a determined push by the saffron brigade. After love jihad and beef, the story has it, it is “sedition” and “Pakistani agent” this time—we are living in a state of undeclared emergency. A sense of disbelief and apocalyptic doom seem to underpin these sentiments, along with a nostalgic optimism for a quick return to harmony and normalcy. But such things have happened far too many times, and far too often for us to harbour such illusions. For what we are going through is in effect a recalibration of that normalcy.

To read political slogans literally is an absurdity. But in the hands of the present government, it is a calculated absurdity that reads “Bharat ki barbadi…” as armed conspiracy against the state. The variables are many—arrests, fake tweets, rampaging lawyers, patriotic house-owners and now, open calls for murder. But the calculus resolves itself into the same formula every time: national/anti-national.

At the outset, the opposition to the attack on the university campus seems to have coalesced around two points—first, maintaining a safe distance from the “anti-India” slogans raised at the meeting; and second, showing themselves as the real nationalists, standing against the saffron thugs in patriot’s disguise. Partly in response to a vicious media campaign, videos of “real nationalist” speeches at the protest venue are being posted on social media everyday. We are told at length about the “real” Indian behind the deshdrohi, his credentials, and how he wants his India to be. Things reached a disturbing pitch when spokespersons of the traditional Left went on record to express their displeasure at the real culprits not being caught. Without doubt, the saffron brigade cannot be allowed the prerogative of deciding what “the nation” means. But why do so from the flimsy ramparts of sedition? Continue reading Sedition is a Shade of Grey or, Bharat Mata’s Smothering Embrace: Ankur Tamuliphukan and Gaurav Rajkhowa

क्या यही प्यार है? कहो, कहो ना…

chinnamastabharatmata

 

 

 

 

 

 

आजकल दर रोज़ हमें बताया जा रहा है कि हम देश से प्रेम करें, राष्ट्र से भक्ति. बड़े परेशान हैं आज के शासक हमं जैसों की करतूतों से. जोश में आ कर कुछ भी बड़बड़ा देते हैं : कभी आज़ादी की बात करते हैं, कभी काशमीर की. कभी जातिवाद से छुटकारा चाहीए, तो कभी पूँजीवाद से. ऐसा लगता है हम न भक्ति जानते हैं, ना प्रेम. तो चलीए, भक्ति ओर प्यार, राष्ट्र ओर देश: इन चारों संज्ञाओं का विश्लेषण कीया जाए.

पहला प्रस्ताव: भक्ति में मिला हुआ है डर; प्यार के साथ चलती है रज़ामंदी.

प्यार मासूम नहीं होता. बच्चे प्यार ज़रूर करते हैं, पर प्यार बड़ों का खेल है. प्यार करना जोखिम भरा काम है दोस्त. ख़तरे की खाई है प्यार. क्योंकि डर लगता है कि जिससे हम प्यार करते हैं, वह हम से फ़क़त दोस्ती जताना चाहता है. “Let’s just be friends.”है इस वाक्य से बड़कर कोई अनर्थ? किसी नौजवान से पूछिए जिसने काँपते हाँथों से Valentine’s card दीया, ओर वापस मिला,”Thanks.” हँसी तो फँसी नहीं, हँसी तो भंग आशाओं की शिखंडी कलेजी में घुसी. पर होता है दोस्त. होता है. क़बूल करना पड़ता है. रो कर, हस कर, दोस्तों के साथ मदहोश शाम में पुरानी फ़िल्मों के गाने बेसुरी आवाज़ में रेंक कर, सुन कर, सुना कर. जब बैंड बजती है तो गाना गाओ दोस्त. गोली मार कर प्यार तो करवाया नहीं जा सकता. Continue reading क्या यही प्यार है? कहो, कहो ना…

#NoDissentNoCountry #StandWithJNU

Williams College Stands with JNU!

 

Kajri Jain, University of Toronto

 

Aarti Sethi, (JNU 2009), Columbia University

A complete Hindi transcript and video of Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech is available here.

A complete English translation may be accessed here.

Rohith Vemula’s last note may be accessed here.